Monday, July 13, 2020


Rabbi Steven Z. Leder


I am ashamed of the URJ’s Iraq resolution

I don\'t embarrass easily. But the Union for Reform Judaism\'s (URJ) recent resolution calling for an \"expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq\" did the trick.

Washington, D. C.: Progress on both sides of the aisle

Sixty years after Roosevelt, thanks to hard work and commitment by generations of American Jews, Betsy and I stood next to a mashgiach in the White House kitchen during a time in America when nearly all politicians of import have a profound respect for the role American Jews play in our society.

The Way of Madness

The idea of one Jew killing another is shocking. Most of us think it never happens -- but the truth is that it does. It happens this week in the Torah with Pinchas. After seeing a Jew apparently enticed by a Midianite prostitute, Pinchas runs them both through with his spear. It happened when the Macabbees saw a Jew publicly bowing down to a statue of Zeus in the town of Modin. It happened during the American Civil War, World War I and when the State of Israel was founded. Most recently, as most of us painfully recall, it happened when a young, deranged Orthodox Jew named Yigal Amir assassinated then Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. Ironically, it was this week\'s Torah portion and the character of Pinchas that some of the most extreme Jews used as a justification for the assassination

Dead Right

I met Bob and Susie at the end of a float plane trip deep in the Alaskan wilderness. Most of the year they live on a 40-foot boat surrounded by nothing but forest and water.

Father’s Day

\"Rabbi, do you make house calls?\" the man named Mike on the other end of the phone wanted to know. \"My dad was never religious, but he said he\'d like to see a rabbi before he dies. He\'s living with us now, and he can\'t get out any more. Please?\" The address was on a winding, urban, L.A. canyon road. I knocked, and Mike let me in. \"Dad, the rabbi is here to talk to you,\" he said loudly over his shoulder.

Torah Truths

It\'s neither new nor shocking to most of us that the earth is round or that the Torah isn\'t a history book dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.

Only Way Into the Promised Land

Consider our ancestors in this week\'s Torah portion.

Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Mom, I write to you again this Mother\'s Day. But this time, a little wiser and more grateful for you; more grateful because now I have two children of my own.

Being Perfect

Consider the lyrics of Cheryl Wheeler\'s song \"Unworthy\":

An Acquired Taste

A friend told me about a scene he witnessed recently at a delicatessen. There was a woman who apparently was not Jewish standing in line at the bakery counter. When they called her number she pointed to the prune and poppy seed hamantaschen and asked for a dozen. \"No, you want these,\" said the elderly Jewish woman who was serving her, pointing to the apricot hamantaschen instead. \"No, I want those,\" the woman reiterated pointing again to the prune and poppy seed variety.

Narrowing It Down

The grocery store used to be a painful place for my 10-year-old son. He has trouble making decisions when there are too many choices. Hence, when in search of an after-school snack, Ralph\'s became his private, post-modern, market-driven hell. \"Okay Aaron, what\'s it gonna be?\" I\'d ask, with the largess of a dad secure in the knowledge he can afford anything in the store.

In Abraham’s Shoes; and Julie’s, Too

Isaac submits without struggle to the twisted leather straps that bind him. He is a helpless partner in this odd dance of death. Abraham reaches for the knife to slit his son\'s throat when mercifully, an angel calls out to stop the slaughter. A ram is to die instead of the boy.

Dear Dad

From \"The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things,\" by Rabbi Steven Z. Leder (Behrman House, Inc.) \"A parent\'s love isn\'t to be paid back; it can only be passed on.\"-- Herbert Tarr Dear Dad, Tomorrow is Father\'s Day, and we are thousands of miles apart -- apart as we are too often and for too long. So it seems a good time to write you and tell you -- dear God, what to tell you? How can a son possibly say what a father means to him -- how can I say what you mean to me?

God Times

We buried her 13 months ago -- this flower, this light, this precious partner of his for 60 years. Everything was done in our ancient way: the funeral with its torn, black ribbons and clods of earth thunking on plain pine; the shiva, with its prayers, grief and Bundt cakes; a year of \"Kaddish\" ending with an unveiled marker that captured his love for her in words as terse as Haiku.

Love and Marriage

The midrash says that poverty is the worst of all afflictions. But I think it\'s something else -- loneliness.


Jonathan Kellerman is a child clinical psychologist who, several years ago, embarked on a highly successful career as a mystery novelist.

The Only Choice We Have

mes the same thing that got you into trouble can get you out of it. Take for example the fact that in last week\'s Torah portion, our ancestors used their gold jewelry to fashion a golden calf. For this act of idolatry and faithlessness, thousands were killed as God\'s anger poured down upon them like a river of fire.

Understanding Moses

If Jonathan Kirsch\'s purpose in writing \"Moses: A Life,\" was to offer the reader a mightily researched, comprehensive chronicle of midrashic, scholarly, secular, Christian and even some Muslim commentaries about Moses and the events immediately surrounding his life as told in the Bible, he has succeeded. Anyone seeking explanations for a given period or event related to Moses need simply look to this well-organized volume.

Be the Angel

At least there\'s one good thing we can say about Abraham preparing to sacrifice his own son Isaac. When he lifts the gleaming knife above the boy\'s head, an angel calls out: \"Do not harm that child.\" Jews don\'t sacrifice their children. It might have been the norm in pagan societies, but not in our ancestors\', and not in ours

Keeping Score

Shabbat Shuvah usually serves more as a reminder of what we already know about our lives than as a wake-up call to something we have yet to discover -- unless there is an entire category of sin, a world of transgression and failure that each of us is guilty of but never considered.

Torah Portion

The Mystics believe that every letter of Torah -- even the white space between the letters -- is drenched with meaning. At first glance, this week\'s Torah portion seems to prove them wrong.

Torah Portion

I never heard the N-word, growing up, because we were Jewish. For my parents, the S-word sufficed. Although they never would have denied someone an opportunity based on skin color, it was \"schvartzes\" who tried to rob my Uncle Max and Auntie Jean at their grocery store. When \"schvartzes\" moved into the neighborhood, it was time to sell the house. My dad had \"a big schvartze\" who worked in his scrap yard.

Torah Portion

It was my third funeral of the week, and I was tired of death. I thought this one would be easier than the others,since it was an elderly woman who suffered terribly and truly wanted to die. Her name was Sarah; her only relatives left were her nephew, Harry, and his son, Joel.

Climbing Our Mountain

As I, at 16, traveled through Israel for the firsttime, my Jewish nerve endings were hypersensitive. Every stone, face,taste, smell, breeze, star, touch, glimpse -- everything -- moved me.

Torah Portion

Here\'s a story that will sadden and amaze you. It\'s Jean Dominique Bauby\'s story. In 1995, he was theeditor-in-chief of Elle magazine in France, the father of two young children, a 43-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style and his passion for life.

Torah Portion

Torah Portion.

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